Bulbs

Bulbs are a fall planting must! Although they do not provide you with instant beauty, such as with perennials, they can provide you with some of the most beautiful flowers come spring time. You just have to have a little patience.

crocus

To begin, you will want to shop for bulbs that are large and plump. Soft and mushy bulbs tend to be a sign of weakness, so try to stay away from them. The large and firm bulbs tend to produce the healthiest and largest flowers come spring. You will also want to consider that not all bulbs grow well in our warm winter climate. Certain bulbs, such as tulips, hyacinth, and crocus, need colder climates to thrive, so a little cheating may be required. I recommend placing cold climate bulbs in a paper bag and placing them in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks before planting (be sure to remove your veggies or your bulbs will become stunted and possibly die).

Here are a few of my favorite bulbs:

Paperwhites:(Narcissus family)

They are easy to grow outside or inside and they are a great flower for the holiday color. I plant in a bowl filled with gravel, pointed-side up, then fill the container with water. Maintain this level at all times and place in a cool location inside your home. Early morning sunlight is ideal. Within 4 to 6 weeks you will have a profusion of blooms. Of course you can just go out and plant your Paperwhites in the soil, just be cautious with animals…the Narcissus family is considered poisonous. Freesias: Another one of my favorite bulbs that, not only look good, but also make a great cut flower for indoors. They do not need afternoon shade and have a great fragrance, especially when planted around small patio areas.

Crocus:

These bulbs will need to be chilled as described above and will grow into a beautiful sea of flowers if planted densely enough. Make sure to plant them in areas that get afternoon shade and in front of any other tall growth.

Ranunculus:

This long-lasting flower can be planted for beautiful spring color. Make sure to soak the bulb in water overnight and if you want, add a little dash of liquid seaweed for good measure.

Once you have chosen your desired bulbs you will need to select the ideal planting location. Bulbs do best in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight, and they can be planted in a variety of pots, containers, and raised beds, along with your garden area.

Now, the key to planting bulbs is to plant them as the cooler temperatures begin to arrive. Bulbs thrive in cooler soil temperatures, so planting them in mid-to-late fall will allow them to establish their roots before the coldest temperatures hit. When determining how deep to plant your bulbs here in the Southwest you will want to determine what the recommended depth is via the packaging and then divide that depth in half. Due to our short/warm winters, planting bulbs too deeply will actually delay the spring blooms. (Check out the planting depth charts below that I found via Better Homes and Gardens at the following link) You also want to be sure to plant your bulb with the roots facing down into the soil so that the growth will emerge from the point of the bulb up through the top of the soil. This may sound like a simple concept, but when planting many bulbs it is easy to get distracted and throw them in a hole and cover them with soil without being sure the point is facing up. Now, one of the most important items to remember is to prepare the soil. Most of our soil is high in clay and holds moisture, which is the biggest enemy of bulbs. They like well-drained, rich soil in a neutral pH range, which means that the bulbs should be placed in well-composted soil – raised beds and pots are perfect too – and each bulb should be placed on a bed of sand at the appropriate depth. I then like to backfill with ½ peat moss added to indigenous soil, along with phosphate and bone meal. When planting your bulbs it is best not to plant them like a crop of corn, in straight rows, I usually grab a handful of bulbs, toss them into my planting area, and then plant them (point up/roots down) where they fall. This will give your bulbs a more natural appearance in your garden.

The charts shown below provide planting depth’s for a variety of favorite bulbs…
**Don’t forget to plant at half the depth listed below for our Southwest climate**bulb planting depths

bulb planting depths


Dave Owens the Garden Guy
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